Cathedral of Saint John the Divine
Amsterdam Avenue at 112th Street
Natural History special issue
Part of City of Stars photo essay.
This gnarly sculpture, in a semipublic park next to the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, is part of Peace Fountain. The inscription on a plaque affixed in front of it begins, “Peace fountain celebrates the triumph of good over evil and sets before us the World’s opposing forces—violence and harmony, light and darkness, life and death—which God reconciles in his peace.” A tall order for any sculpture. I only happened to notice that the central figure, the one from which all manner of creatures and crawly things emerge, is a thick-lipped, smiley Sun backed by a sleepy-looking full Moon. Further along in the 225-word description of the sculpture’s symbolism, we get to the Sun-Moon part: “Facing west, a somnolent Moon reflects tranquillity from a joyous Sun smiling to the east.”
Why the two different moods? The sculpture depicts the Moon setting in the west after a full night of illuminating Earth (tiring work, for sure), while the Sun, having rested below the horizon for the entire night, is shown rising refreshed and ready for the day.
In aligning the Sun-Moon faces due east and west (as advertised on the plaque), the sculptor was not fooled by the orientation of Manhattan’s rectangular street grid, which is rotated a full 30° from the grid defined by geographic north.